I finished a book last night, My Education by Susan Choi, and I’m grateful for it coming across my desk and grateful for having read it thoroughly, from cover to cover, from the first word to the last.
Because it has freed me to speak my mind about why I have struggled, internally, to commit to my girlfriend.
Now, don’t take this to mean that the events of the story are in anyway directly related to the events in my life. At the start, I am not in engaged in an elicit affair with the wife of a deeply adored mentor. I have felt the cheater; I have been the mistress of a sorts, but no, there are no parallels to be drawn here.
Rather, the ending of the novel evokes a feeling of sympathy, sympathy for the lost, sympathy for the hesitant, sympathy for the different, and sympathy for the challenges of life and love and marriage and children and humanity. If you are to enjoy it, if you are to savor the finish, you must savor that fact: humanity requires sympathy.
But, back to me (ha! I suppose that is the purpose of this, is it not?) and this struggle to commit…
Both my girlfriend and I suffer from a sort of hubris. It is a conjoined gremlin twin that we carry on our shoulders: I fear she will leave me, eventually, because I am “too much” for her (too intelligent, too driven, too much more than) and that it will tread upon her until she cracks, and she fears I will leave her, eventually, because she is not enough (not intelligent enough, not driven enough, not enough to maintain my interest). And so, we are on eggshells around one another – she craves my approval; I crave her independence. She attempts to manipulate my emotions; I think I attempt to manipulate her mind.
And so back and forth we go, around and around, attracted and yet repulsed, and it shows (oh, it shows, while I think we both believe those moments of utter repulsion are hidden underneath humor or tightly shut eyes), and I wonder, where is the sympathy for us? Where is the sympathy for our sins?
I think she will cheat on me one day. If only because she is so certain she won’t, but I know, I know she could. She won’t plan it, no, she’s not the vengeful type, at least not in that way. We will push each other, she will drink, and an opportunity to hurt me/prop herself up will present, and it will be terrible.
It will be terrible.
I won’t cheat on her, no, that’s not my way. I am capable of opening my mouth and using my father’s tongue, a smiter’s tongue, and I can cleave soul from spirit with my words, and that will be my unforgivable sin.
You see, the things we are most terribly capable of are the things the other would forgive, but can we forgive ourselves? I could forgive her cheating (she could not me). She could forgive me the words that break (but I could not towards me). And so, around and around we continue to go, waiting to see if/when the other will crack. Waiting to see just how long this can last before the weight of its own incertitude cracks it to shards.
Shuffling along with the sort of dread cannot be good for the soul. Perhaps it is only me that feels this way, but I doubt it. I rather believe that is just only me who is consciously sensing it, for if you name a thing you may take away its power. But, we are acting as if we labor under and so I must only assume that we do.